Festive Friday: Christmassy Jumpers

I’m not a huge jumper fan. I rarely wear jeans, I live in floral dresses and skirts (and pyjamas…) and cosy cardigans are my go-to cover ups. But there’s something about a festive jumper that screams Christmas, and for a few weeks I’ll happily live in one. I tend not to go too festive, and I still tend to accessorise with tartan scarves, but these are my wardrobes concession to festiveness. Excuse the slightly yellow light – the new lightshade in my room might look pretty, but isn’t helpful for blog photos!

 photo 2014-12-03183821_zps21671c4a.jpg photo 2014-12-03183838_zpsde03ec6a.jpgNot strictly a Christmassy jumper, but I’m so glad I splurged on this Terrier number from Joules (one of my favourite shops!) last year. Not only does it match my fur-baby, the cashmere makes it feel wonderfully soft and luxurious – as it should for the price I paid (especially considering the assistant neglected to give my three-year NUS card back, and I never saw it again). The colours make it suitable to wear whatever time of year, and it looks great dressed with with smart trousers as well as thrown over jeans.

 photo 2014-12-03184037_zps5fd79350.jpg photo 2014-12-03183859_zps6199e167.jpgSorry to say, but I failed at taking a photo of my real dog against my jumper-dog! Real dog just wouldn’t sit still for the camera, so his feet are the best I have! See here for the likness!

 photo 2014-12-03183234-Copy_zps8fb923d9.jpgNext up and I couldn’t resist included my boyfriend in his festive jumper. A classic reindeer in a lovely berry shade, this was a bargain from New Look. I think men’s jumpers are so much nicer than womens – especially this year as there’s far too many pastel colours around! M&S have some lovely ones this year, there’s one I’m desperate to get him but being short on funds makes this unlikely…sorry my love!

 photo 2014-12-03183853_zpsd072b36f.jpgNow for my favourite festive item – not a jumper, but a ridiculously oversized cardigan. It’s unbelievably a Size 8, and from Warehouse, but I’m afraid you’ll only pick this one up by rifling through attics as it’s actually older than me! This was one of my mum’s 18th presents many years ago, so many that it is officially a vintage piece. I’ve loved this for years, and I finally bagged it two years ago. Perfect with skinny jeans, and it acts as a festive dressing gown on Christmas morning too. Oh, and its warm enough to wear without a coat. I love it!
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Are you a fan of Christmas jumpers? What one are you wearing this year?

The Leather Satchel Co – New Website & Discount

As you all know (from this post, this post, and possibly this one too!) I’m a huge fan of the Leather Satchel Co. I love my satchel (it’s a bespoke custom design), it gets lots of comments from people (including impressing on a recent interview), and it fits everything I need into it. It’s the perfect bag for me!

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The company my satchel came from are pretty much the original satchel makers (they’ve been about a LOT longer than the Cambridge Satchel Company), and they were absolutely delightful to deal with. They listened to everything I had to say, did virtually everything I wanted, and delivery was exceptionally quick (though they did email to warn me of what they felt was a delay). However, some things did go amiss. There was confusion about a small part of my order, and a mix-up of delivery addresses. I felt these problems stemmed from the fact that they didn’t really have a proper website, more an online display, and customers needed to email to order. It was a long-winded way of doing things, and to be perfectly honest I wasn’t the hugest fan of their system, nor their website design. But all that has changed!

They have this month launched a new website, and whilst it’s still the it’s tweaking stage I personally believe it’s a huge improvement! There’s a wider selection of photographs open, and you can buy a variety of standard satchels easily straight off the site – but you can still order your customised satchels too!

2013-06-17 15.17.58There’s also a much-improved care guide (though I’m curious as to the product photographed – I’m trying to find out more about that!), an excellent size guide, and the colour guide seems a lot more accurate now. I think my favourite part is the fact you can order standard satchels directly from the site now – I have my eye on these (a blue one, and a lovely brown one).

To top it all of for you, I have a unique discount code that is still valid, which entitles you to an amount off of your order. I don’t get paid any money for providing you with this discount, and all the opinions of the company are entirely my own but the code is unique to my blog/name so please don’t share it out anywhere else!

EDIT: due to my code being shared externally to this site it was removed by the company – understandably as it was being used excessively. I’m hoping to do more collaborations with The Leather Satchel Company in the future, so watch this space!

I genuinely do recommend this company – my bag is amazing and I’m sure others made by them will be too. For all of my readers wondering about longevity of the bag, a post will be up soon. But for now, go ahead, use my code and treat yourself!

What’s your favourite satchel? 

Also – Don’t forget to vote for me in the National UK Blog Awards 2014, in the following three categories; FoodLifestyle; and Young Persons (18-25) 

12 Days of Christmas (#8): Gifts for the Baker

Apologies for this post coming up so late for Christmas, however I made this bundle up for a housemate of mine, and needed to wait til she received it before publishing!

As you can probably tell from this blog, I’m a massive lover of baking, and this housemate is also relatively keen on baking. She also seems to love vintage-style items (her room is amazingly well decorated!) and so I went with a slight vintage theme on a baking gift set for her present. Oh, and some cute reindeer cake cases, as it is Christmas after all!

IMAG0448I bought a vintage-themed baking set from Wilkinsons; a thick and decorated ceramic bowl, with a mixture of cookie cutters inside. I love this type of bowl!

I then scoured Ebay searching for a nice, not-too-expensive, slightly pretty rolling pin, and ended up finding one with a floral print end. It was delivered really quickly, is a good weight and really looks great for the price. Yes, you can get cheaper rolling pins, but I didn’t want to go down the plain route! I can’t find exactly what I bought, but this set is similar.

Finally, I bought a Kilner jar from Wilkinson’s, which I plan to fill with the dry ingredients to make some kind of Christmassy bake – that’ll be another blog post!

All in all, I reckon this is a fabulous little gift set, I’d be happy to receive it! I’m almost reluctant to give it away! Best of all, it falls under the £20 barrier, so is perfect for those on a budget.

 

Do you make up gift sets or hampers to give as presents?

12 Days of Christmas (#5): Winter Warmers

This isn’t strictly a Christmas post, but I felt like it was getting forgotten, and one of the items of clothing included is rather Christmassy (and rather vintage…)!

I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite things to wear/do over the winter and Christmas season, so here goes:

2013-12-16 21.41.22I absolutely adore my tartan scarf this season – I actually bought it in August, not to be stylish or fashionable, but because I was at the Edinburgh Fringe and it was cold and windy. The scarf was needed so I bought it, and I’m so glad you did. Mine is 100% lambswool, and is a little itchy, but I couldn’t quite stretch the budget to a cashmere one!

I’m also loving all of the lovely berry-coloured hats this year – I bought a beret from Primark a few weeks ago and I really like wearing it. I’ve also asked for a bobble hat in the same colour for Christmas!

Then there’s my beloved Kindle – there’s nothing better than curling up in front of the fire with a good book.

Finally, there’s this chunky cardigan, which has become my favourite thing. Its baggy and cosy, looks great with skinny jeans or leggings, and is perfect for lounging around, layering under coats for a cold walk, or indeed lectures. Best of all – its older than me! It was actually one of my mum’s 18th birthday presents, it features in many family photos (including her getting ready for her 21st and her hen night, and loads of my baby photos) and its such a constant thing in my life that I love getting it out each winter. Check out the pattern on the back too;

2013-12-16 21.42.24So cute, I will definitely be wearing this at some point on Christmas day!

2013-12-16 21.49.49Here’s a couple of other things I’m loving this winter/Christmas!

  • First of all, you can virtually always find me in thick fluffy socks, even in summer. I’m liking these Cath Kidston bed socks as they are non-slip, not too thick (so can actually wear in bed) and they have a cute penguin pattern. I’m lucky enough to have the matching pyjamas too!
  • Then there’s the hot chocolate and chocolate combo – I’m a huge fan of Cadbury’s, so that’s my go-to brand.
  • Toastie’s. I love a good toastie in the winter, and this book has been great for making up new ideas and combinations. I don’t actually own a sandwich toasted, and currently fry mine in a pan, but I’m looking to invest in a cheap one in the new year.
  • Now the last things is a little strange, but I’ve become addicted to room and linen sprays lately. I find that having the central heating on and drying clothes inside can lead to a musty smell, and this covers it perfectly. Not the cheapest, but wonderful when it’s half price!

 

What are you loving this Christmas? Do you have any much-loved handed down clothing items?

 

 

 

Student Shopping: Tips on Auction Sites (And My EBay Addiction)

Sorry it’s been so long again. This operation really has taken a lot out of me, and coupled with trying to get on top of shifts at work (I don’t qualify for sick pay anymore, so wanted to make up for the shifts I missed!) I’ve had little time for blogging. I really have missed it, but my energy has been non-existent and the last thing I want is to be posting flat and tired posts. Hopefully this one won’t be too bad…

 

Over the few weeks between getting home and having my operation, I was tasked with clearing out my room. My parents aren’t planning on chucking me out anytime soon, but they are well aware I’m a little bit of a hoarder, and they also plan on redecorating my room next year. Embarrassingly, it took 3 trips to the dump to throw all of the non-decent stuff (and even more embarrassingly, only half of my room has been done – and it’s a small room!) and many black bags to house the various piles labelled ‘sell’ and ‘donate.’ Quite a decent pile of my stuff made its way to various charity shops, which always makes me feel like I’m doing my bit. I can’t say I give to charity as much as I’d like, sadly I can’t afford to donate often, but giving my unwanted goods for shops to sell makes me feel a teeny bit better. I also try and check out their clothing rails when I pop in – there’s often some excellent deals to be had!

I also had a lot of really, really good bits and pieces) that I felt I could get a bit of money for. I mean, most bits still had tags on! I have a really bad habit of buying things that I ‘might’ wear and then never wearing/using them, and although I’m growing out of that phase now (mainly as it’s my own money I’m spending!) it’s still left me with a lot of things to get rid of. Enter EBay. Not only did I find it an excellent way of getting rid of my unwanted things, I also found myself acquiring a few bits and pieces others didn’t want, which I did. This blog post will be a not-so-short guide to buying and selling on EBay.

 

Selling On EBay

  • Make sure it’s something that someone will want. Cheap items do sell, but is anyone really want to buy a broken Primark dress, pay postage, and repair it when they could buy a brand-new one for under £10. Special occasion items, like this here (I love it!), seem to sell well.
  • Set a reserve price just right. No point starting off your old ‘best’ leather jacket at 99p. But equally no point starting a well used t-shirt at £5. Judge it properly, and you’ll get interest.
  • Don’t charge ridiculous postage fees. It costs me £3 to post a small parcel (shorts/dress/t-shirt) and £3.50 for a pack of five postage bags. So to me, when someone asks for £5.50 postage for similar items, I get annoyed and put-off bidding. The ones EBay suggest are good estimates, and there for a reason, so do consider using them!
  • Take decent photographs, and lots of them. If you’re selling a patterned item, make sure your photos show it clearly. I also suggest taking photos of size/brand labels if possible, to avoid being accused of false advertising.
  • If selling clothing, please wash it before posting it off. I know people (me at least!) will most likely wash it when they receive it, but no-one will give you positive feedback for items with your dinner down them!
  • Make sure any items don’t smell. I won’t state which, but a clothing item I have received in the last few weeks had clearly been stored in a damp environment. Three washes and airings later it’s far improved, but I can’t stay I was impressed upon opening!
  • Don’t be disheartened if things don’t sell – list again, and again, and again, adjusting the reserve price if you feel it needs it. Remember that at certain times of the year (holiday periods) bidding will be less.
  • Ensure items are posted out quickly after payment is received. I always try to time my auctions to finish on a Saturday or Sunday, ensuring I have postage bags ready, so I know I can send them out the day after payment is received.
  • Keep an eye on items, as potential bidders may ask questions. It annoys me hugely when I ask a seller a question, they don’t respond, and so the item goes unbid on.

 

Buying on EBay

  • When searching, always try to be specific – don’t search for skirts, search for ‘floral skirt’ or ‘maxi skirt.’ No point wading through hundreds of entries you’re not interested in! Ideally, search for your favourite brands/shops too.
  • My biggest piece of advice is to include the size you’d want as a search term -you don’t want to find the perfect item and then it be miles too big/small for you.
  • Ask questions before bidding, especially if the seller won’t accept returns.
  • I don’t bid on things I like straight away. I add them to my watch list, set a phone alarm for just before bidding ends, and then bid at the last moment. This helps me to avoid a bidding war, and keeps me to a budget.
  • To keep to a budget, decide on a maximum bid and stick to it. Entering the auction with minute to go lowers the chance of you being outbid, and so removes temptation to spend more than you would have.
  • Don’t bid on everything you like – consider where it is from, and how well it will be made. I’m sorry if you think I’m a snob, but I would not buy a second-hand, used item from Primark for £5+postage, as I know perfectly well I could get one for the same price that hasn’t been worn before.
  • Last of all, always, always, please, please, please give feedback to your seller!

 

That’s my basic guide to selling/buying on EBay. I will admit the majority of things I have been interested in are clothes (I am a girl after all!) and here are the three items I have won this summer.

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A lovely vintage-style Urban Outfitters skirt. I just adore the different buttons on this, plus it’ll be far easier when I inevitably lose one!

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A less vintage, but equally lovely (and apparently one-off) unbranded skirt. This is a little on the tight side, but I got overexcited and ignored the ‘to fit sizes 6-10’ in the description as it was the first item I bid on.

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An absolutely gorgeous (the photograph doesn’t do it justice) mini-dress from Mango. I can’t wait until the winter to wear this with thick tights and boots!

 

I have also used EBay to try and find some items of sentimental value.

2013-08-02 18.31.31

Since I was very little, I’ve had one cuddly toy, and it’s the only one that I ever truly loved. It, or he, came everywhere with me, experienced things a bear shouldn’t have to experience (being stuffed in a drawer after getting lost in Marks and Spencer’s, and being posted from Cornwall for Leicestershire after I left him in a holiday cottage) and was basically glued to my hand when I wasn’t losing him. I loved, and still love, Bear. Yes, my bear’s name is Bear. I was an imaginative child (the story is, he was actually bought for my mum when she announced she was expecting me, I fell in love with him as a child, but I wasn’t allowed him until I said the word ‘bear’ – it ended up being my first word, and the name stuck). Anyway, I decided to search on EBay to see if I could find another, and found several straight away. I duly purchased, not to replace my Bear (he is irreplaceable!) but to store for the future day I have children, in the hope that they too have a cuddly best friend to see them through their childhood and beyond. See, EBay can be used for sentimental reasons too, and that just shows how soppy I am at heart…

 

For all of you Filofax fans out there (and I know there are a lot thanks to Philofaxy publicizing my blog on their round-up posts) EBay is also a great source of cheaper Filofaxes. I greatly aim to get hold of a vintage Filofax one day, and probably spend a little bit of time twice a week searching for these on EBay. I’ve not found the perfect one at the perfect price, yet, but I’m sure I will one day.  I want something like this…

Filofax

Image from here.

I will say though, I’ve seen a few try to sell non-leather folders expensively by mis-describing them. I’ve also seen multiple sellers listing other folders (i.e. cheap store bought ones) as “Filofax-style” in order to try and gain more money. So do be careful with what you are buying – Philofaxy has a great advisory post here. My biggest piece of advise if buying a Filofax is to definitely ask on Philofaxy, or on one of the Facebook groups, just to check that you are getting the real deal.

 

So that’s it, my rambly guide to using EBay. Hope that helps the potential bidders in my readers!

Finding my “Impossible To Find Necessity” – Part Two

I know a lot of people have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment of “Finding My Impossible To Find Necessity.” I outlined the problem here, and began the instalments in this post. Anywhere, here the second instalment is! Today I’m going to be discussing more the service I received from The Leather Satchel Co, and my first impressions of my satchel.

I say satchel – I should point out that technically I have a batchel – because I chose to have a handle added to mine. However, I prefer the term satchel, and so will continue to use it. I just thought I should explain in case of any confusion when cross-referencing with other bloggers.

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Firstly, the service I received whilst ordering. I mainly dealt with Keith, who I must say is an excellent example of how staff should deal with customers. He was friendly (which is always important!), polite, made me feel comfortable and was both extremely helpful and accommodating. He explained that they can make satchels to virtually any specification (have a look on their Facebook page at some of their custom bags – there is a green one that is utterly fantastic!) so this company is definitely worth considering if you want a bespoke bag made for you, or if you have needs which aren’t being met by bags ‘off-the-shelf.’

After I ordered my bag, I briefly dealt with Tony – I was worried as I had originally arranged for the bag to be delivered to my halls of residence back in Kent, however moved home before despatch. Tony ensured my bag would be sent to my home address, for which I was greatly relieved.

Related to this is delivery time – my bag took a lot longer than others I have read about, but the team explained that was due to my embossing requiring a new plate. From what I have read, delivery from this company is generally extremely quick – and to be honest the wait for mine was only ‘bad’ because I was so excited to receive it! I’m not sure of the exact time frame, and at this point too lazy to check my emails, but I would estimate it took maybe 3 weeks from order to receipt of my bag – so for a custom build that really is excellent!

 

Now, to delivery/packaging, and then finally the all-important first impressions. Once my bag was despatched, Tony emailed me a tracking number (the company ship from APC Express Couriers) and I obsessively tracked my satchel. It very quickly reached the local depot (which I happen to know is very close to my house). It then stayed there for an entire weekend. Sob. I then waited in, not daring to shower or even cook spaghetti carbonara for lunch, until it turned up. Which (obviously) it finally did. Yay!

Here’s the long awaited parcel!

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What’s not overly clear from this picture is that the box was quite damaged – scuffed along all edges, and quite a big hole in one side. I panicked hugely (hence only having the one photo of the box) and quickly opened it to check the inside was undamaged. Luckily it was, however I would like to ask APC to be a little more careful of parcels, particularly ones who are likely to contain items of considerable expense.

As soon as I opened the box, the room was filled with a lovely leather smell – my dog certainly found the smell attractive (indeed, he managed to plonk his wet nose on my bag within five seconds of it being fully unwrapped…)

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Included in my box was a dust bag. I was initially very grateful for this, until I realised that actually it doesn’t (easily) fit my satchel inside, and I was very worried about damage to the satchel on the one occasion I did try to squeeze it in. So, my advice to anyone with a Tallboy with extended gusset is to buy or use a cheap pillowcase when storing your bag – it works for me!

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Now, to the packaging. I had read on many blogs about the wonderful packaging that this company used – brown paper packaging tied up with string. So I was kind of disappointed – my satchel came in a plastic bag. But this really doesn’t detract from the bag itself, and I still got the beautifully worded envelope which contained the details for my guarantee. The Leather Satchel Co guarantees it’s products for five years – you fill in a form on the website, and the guarantee is emailed. As my bag is part of a affililate deal, I wasn’t sure if I qualified for the guarantee – I’ve filled out the form anyway, so I shall see if I do get one or not. I don’t really expect to need it, as my satchel feels so well made, and ready for a long life.

 

Here’s my bag straight out of the packaging (snotty dog nose print removed):

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You can see the bag is a little dusty – I assume work shop dust. It wiped off easily with a soft cloth, so nothing to worry about if your bag arrives like this. It’s something to be expected from an item handcrafted!

Here’s the top of my bag. I thought this was a good photo to show both the strap, shoulder pad and briefcase handle.

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One thing I will say is that in my order specification I actually stated I wanted the shoulder pad to be in the Patent Oxblood Red – it was a bit of a surprise when it arrived with a black one, however I’ve grown to be glad that it did, as I do think a contrasting one may have looked a little odd. I’ve also mentioned previously that I perhaps should have asked for a shorter shoulder strap. At roughly 5ft4 and which it on its shortest setting it is just about right although I’ve prefer occasionally to have it higher as it has bruised the backs of my legs where it swings as I walk.

Above all, probably my most important piece of advice for you if you are ordering a satchel for use at school/college/university is to get a shoulder pad – trust me these bags are heavy even when empty, and carrying around one is quite tough (in a summer dress) with the shoulder pad. I can’t imagine what my skin would look like without that extra padding!

As you can see from all of my photos, the quality and stitching of the leather is absolutely second to none. After a lot of use over the last two/three weeks there has been absolutely no loose stitches – something I actually was expecting.

There were a few little flaws on my bag – two scratches are noticeable to me, although they aren’t particularly photographable. I’m guessing if I had chosen a non-patent leather they would be even less obvious – it appears to be a teeny bit of damage to the finish. No matter though, it’s things like that which make a satchel appear used and loved! This is a handcrafted item, so perfection can’t be expected – it is pretty close though!

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Now, I think that I should discuss the buckles a little bit – this is the part I was probably most concerned about when ordering. I did want buckles – they are more traditional (and I really am a traditional girl at heart!), more secure (having been targeted, although thankfully not caught out, by pick pocketers before this was important to me), and generally just a nice feature. But I was really worried about the leather straps peeling, or becoming damaged due to heavy use. When my bad arrived, the leather straps felt a little dry, so I rubbed some nivea on. Not sure if this is the best thing, but it was all I had and doesn’t seem to have caused any adverse affects. I will be in contact with the company in due course to discuss the best products for caring for the leather. I have come to the conclusion that my straps are safer if I don’t pass them through the final bar – just leave them after putting the prong through the hole. The final bar seems sharper, and more likely to damage, and leaving the straps this way means less effort to get something you need.

I feel that I should also make some attempt to describe the Patent Oxblood colour, however I think my photographs do show it of quite well. It is the perfect combination between neutral and stand-out – it is smart enough to take to work, or for interviews, whilst still being pretty and fun enough to actually want to carry.

 

This has been a bit of a jumbled post, and probably not a hugely wonderful one. I blame the drugs (pre-operation medications have been having some very odd side effects – here’s to the procedure going well on Wednesday!). But what I hope I have made clear is the love for my satchel, the greatfulness to the company, and the fact that I do genuinely recommend that you consider ordering from them. I know I definitely will do again in the future!

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Unfortunately my affiliate code has been removed due to it being shared outside of my sites. There will hopefully be development of a new scheme in the first months of 2015.

Please note, I haven’t done this for my own personal gain – I wanted to truly see whether it is worth spending the money on a bag, to see if it will last, and to work out the best specifications for a student. All opinions on the company will be 100% honest, and I will be happy to answer any specific questions from readers.

 

 

 

Finding my “Impossible To Find Necessity” – Part One

After writing this post here, and continuing to do a lot more research and contacting companies to find out more, I decided that the first company I would try was The Leather Satchel Co.

This company really appealed to me because of the excellent customer service reviews, and the possibility of huge customisation – I really wanted a unique bag. Not to mention that this company also make the Original Filofax (I am now the proud owner of an A5 in patent black, which will be reviewed over the next few days). What’s not to love – you could have a matching bag and Filofax!

I sent off for some leather samples, which arrived about 18 hours after I emailed my choices. To me, this was excellent customer service, and the person I was first in email was extremely friendly. You can view their colour choice here, but nothing compares to viewing them, feeling them (I found some had a different texture) and putting swatches together to decide on colour combinations.

Here are the colour swatches I ordered:

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The image quality here is really poor – no matter what I did I couldn’t get them to photograph in their true light. I suggest that if you are interested in purchasing from this company, you ask for some swatches. I believe that this service is currently free, although I definitely wouldn’t begrudge paying postage costs.

I knew, before receiving the colour samples, that I’d want a two-colour design, rather than just the use of one colour all over. The question was which colours!

Before receiving the leather samples, I was pretty much set on having neutral brown colours. I wanted something classic, and wearable. Something that would go with everything. Although I was tempted by the green, particularly seeing this blog post here. All that changed when I saw one particular colour! I completely and utterly fell in love with the Patent Oxblood Red, satchels in which you can see on the company’s Facebook page, and on blog posts here, here and here. I decided to pair this with a non-patent leather, as I thought the buckles would be easier (having received my bag, I believe this to be true), and after tossing between the darkest brown (top left) and black (top right) I went for the black.

 

Then there was the question of the other customisations I would require. This company became my favourite due to the huge amount of choice they have available – you can buy a truly bespoke bag. If you look at this page of their website, you can see how flexible they are. AND if you speak to them direct, they can do even more. Looking on their Facebook page they have created some amazingly unique bags.

I went for this two-tone colour pattern, with the first colour being the Oxblood, and the second being the Black. I added a black handle, which from reading reviews seemed a necessity, and a black strap. Thinking practically (for once) I realised I’d need a shoulder pad, so decided on one in Oxblood (unfortunately, this detail was misread, and I ended up with one in black, rather than what I stated) as this would make carrying the bag for comfortable. Size-wise, I know I carry a LOT so went for a 15″ Tallboy satchel, with an extended gusset of an extra 33%. This makes for a very tall, wide and bulky bag, with plenty of space! I went for traditional buckles (nice and secure, plus they probably allow a little more space for tall items), and a standard length shoulder strap. On reflection, I probably should have asked for one shorter than standard, but with it on the shortest length it is just about right.

 

Having decided on my bag specifications, I was then stuck. I couldn’t afford the bag, and my birthday isn’t until December (just as a hint for all you readers…). I was content, however, to struggle through with my current bag and wait until I could persuade someone to treat me. But then Keith from the company got in touch and, amazingly, offered me a bag to review. A bag completely to my specifications, with the added bonus of embossing. To say I was shocked is an understatement, and I was also incredibly grateful. And a little nervous – I certainly hope my writing and photos shows off this bag to its best. So, I sent off my specifications, and waited. My bag is now here, and it’s virtually perfect. But that’s another blog post! I will be a doing a review of the delivery, packaging, and first impressions of my bag shortly, along with posts in a few months time as to how my bag is lasting. Because after-all, the main reason for reviewing it on this blog is to see how long it lasts with use at school, college or university. For now, I’m going to sit and stare and stroke and sniff my beautiful leather satchel. And if you want a sneak peak at it, look at my Facebook page!

 

I have become an affiliate with The Leather Satchel Co. Currently there is no referral code due to is being shared outside of this site, but I will update with more info in the first few months of 2015.

Please note, I haven’t done this for my own personal gain – I wanted to truly see whether it is worth spending the money on a bag, to see if it will last, and to work out the best specifications for a student. All opinions on the company will be 100% honest, and I will be happy to answer any specific questions from readers.

I Should Have Been A Student In The Eighties

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I’m obsessively and unhelpfully organised. I say unhelpfully; when plans change for reasons beyond my control, it kind-of upsets me, and definitely stresses me out! Tonight I’m going to blog all about one of the ways I stay organised – my Filofax.

Filofax’s were really popular way before I was born, in the Eighties. I love the Eighties, I wish I was my age (too close to 20 for my liking!) in that decade. Everything just seems so much simpler, the music was better (I’ve been addicted to Bon Jovi for many years now) and it wasn’t seen as odd to carry a Filofax. I get a few funny looks when I full out my Filofax, and I think that’s a shame. Just imagine how many less people would miss deadlines if they actually wrote them down! That said, I think they are beginning to become more popular. I’ve seen a few around and about, particularly on trains, and I even see a girl on Loughborough University campus jogging with one a few days back…

Back in the “good old days” a sign of popularity was whether your Filofax was stuffed full or not. Nowadays, people are being a lot more creative. If you look on any of Philofaxy’s ‘Web Finds’ post you’ll find many links to other blogs showing their Filofax set ups, complete with bright colours, stickers, washi tape etc. They’re not limited to diaries and business-card-holds – you can buy and make so many different types of inserts, and they’re completely versatile.  I currently use mine as a complete organiser, and here it is…

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I have a Personal sized Vintage Pink Malden. I agonised for weeks about which Filofax I wanted (it was a gift from my parents in reward for my A-level results). I knew I wanted a Personal sized one (for those who are wondering about sizes, have a look here). Basically, these are roughly the same size as the academic diaries given out yearly by many schools, they aren’t too bulky, but nor are they too small (being a very awkward left-hander, I was conscious I’d struggle to write in anything smaller).

After going and touching them up in Paperchase, Rymans, and pretty much anywhere I could get my hands on them, much to the embarrassment of my other half, I finally decided that I definitely wanted a leather organiser. They’re just softer, and more luxurious. Because lets face it, if you’re a student being offered luxury, grab it with both hands and make the most of it! If you’re just starting out on the ‘getting organised’ route and are not sure you’d use a Filofax, I’d suggest getting a non-leather one, or even an alternative brand, as they are very pricey. After much more stroking and leather smelling, I fell in love with the softness, floppiness and luxury feel of the Maldens. It is such a strokeable (yes I sit and stroke my Filofax…) leather, and it smells so lovely too! I then had to decide about colour. I was deeply tempted by the Ochre colour, but in the end the girliness inside me won. Vintage Pink it was. The colour is ridiculously hard to photograph, I’ve seen nothing which has managed it, but I’m hoping the following photo shows it off reasonably well:

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I apologise for the quality of all of these photographs – my university accommodation attracts a lot of sunlight in the evening, and I also wanted to use as much natural light as possible as I often find colours distort under artificial light.

Inside my Malden there is a lot of pockets and card slots – perfect for someone who likes to stay as organised as me. I keep all of my bank, and loyalty cards inside, as well as ID and stamps. Anything I might need in fact! The zipped pocket holds spare change, and emergency £5, and a memory stick.

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Although you can’t really tell from my photos, the fifth ring down is misaligned. Not hugely, but enough to make my pages catch and be annoying. I’m not too sure what to do about it though!

Skipping to the back of my Filofax now. Built in there are two large pockets, and a pen loop at the back. The top (horizontal opening) pocket is one that is used a lot. It is the perfect size for my passport, and also houses a pen and usually a Filofax holepunch. It is very significant that the pocket houses the pen – the pen loop on my Malden is actually fully closed up – if you push a pen through it can’t go through as there is an ‘end’ to the loop. This is clearly a fault, but as you can’t get hold of these Filofaxes anymore, its a problem I again don’t know how to address! The pen I use is a black Pilot Frixion – one of those erasable ones. I use these all the time, apart from for coursework and exams. I love them, they don’t smudge from my (dodgy leftie) handwriting, don’t bleed through, and last a reasonably long time. Well about a week, but I do use them a lot. Next year I hope to use some of the coloured ones to make my Filofax a little bit more organised, but I couldn’t fit them in the budget for this year. The holepunch I have is a WHSmiths branded one. Its fiddly and difficult to use  –  I’m definitely in the market for a more sturdy one, preferably one that punches A5 filofaxes too. Any ideas?

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To up the storage in my Filofax, I make good use of the card holder inserts that came included, and I also bought two zip pocket inserts from Paperchase. I use the extra card holders for business cards, and cards I don’t use as often as the ones in the front. Inside the zip-pockets goes receipts, and vouchers. You can see a Golden Ticket in the following picture – this is the voucher I received from my other half for Christmas, and entitled us to an afternoon of Chocolate making at a shop in Loughborough (review to follow I think!). I also keep some painkillers in my Filofax, just for sudden migraines.

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So, now you’ve explored the actual physical features of my Filofax, it’s time to take you inside and show you how I use it.

I use it mainly as a diary/organiser. For this, at the moment, I am still using the original inserts that came with the Filofax – week to view. This doesn’t work particularly well for me. At the start of the academic year, I was really organised and colour-coded everything. As is very clear from the photos, I got bored of this, and instead it now contains a lot of scribbles, and a lot less writing. I’ll definitely aim to use it a little more next year – hopefully with some more suitable inserts. The best I’ve seen are on Philofaxy, but I don’t have a good enough printer so I’d be looking for someone to print and send them to me for a bit of payment – not sure who to approach about that, definitely something to look into over the summer! I ideally want  something a little like the undated planners, but with only half a page per day, and less note-taking space.

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As you can see, my Filofax definitely got more bare as the year went on, and I think the main reason for that is the setup just wasn’t right for me – definitely need to change my planner style!

Next is an insert which does get a lot of use – a horizontal year planner. I got mine from WHSmiths, as I prefer the layout and font. Plus its cheaper, particularly as there’s no shipping costs. I use this to record term dates, deadlines, exams, breaks, boyfriend visits, holidays, rent payments, pay-days, work commitments. I have to be intelligent in how I note things in, as the space is very small. I also use the back (note spaces separated by month) to jot down train times relating to that month.

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I then also have a ‘weekly’ section in my Filofax. This is homemade, using a Philofaxy template, and involves a physical copy of my university timetable. This year I used a bright pink paper, I’m going to tone it down a bit next year!

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I love this layout, as it shows when my free periods are, when I’m busy at the weekend, work commitments (which change weekly due to my wonderfully flexible job), visits to the boyfriend, lecture venues, and just about everything. I don’t include deadlines though. I’m not sure whether I will continue this for next year, though, as my lecture timings get more complicated (so there’s won’t be enough timeslots), and my university does have a very good system and so my timetable is synced seamlessly onto my phone calender. I will look for another type of weekly planner though. Or maybe a monthly one. I just feel something a bit more detailed than my yearly one would be a good idea.

A quick note about dividers. I still use the ones that came with the Filofax (the lovely cotton cream ones), although the A-Z ones are currently hiding in a drawer somewhere. I don’t use them in any particular way – their headings don’t match up to the contents, but I know where things are. I may cover them with a nice cream or plain-ish pattern over summer, and just use them unlabelled.

I then have a Finance section. At the beginning of the year, I used Filofax’s standard finance inserts, but it got very confusing. Plus to look at my sorry empty balance was getting a little depressing. So I gave up and just relied on my internet banking. I do however keep a note of what I’m spending any physical cash on, as I find otherwise I’d spend it here, there and everywhere.

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I keep a section full of To Do List inserts. These are from Paperchase, and I really, really, really dislike the border – I’ll definitely splash out on nicer ones for next year as they really annoy me, and the paper feels so cheap and scratchy. But they do the job I suppose. (the following shows a typical fortnightly shop for me).

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Finally, I thought I’d share with you one of my favourite things about the Filofax brand. If you register your Filofax, and put it’s unique code on a sheet which comes with every Filofax, then if you lose it, and if someone finds it, they can contact Filofax with this code, it will be returned to you and they will receive a free gift. I recommend every Filofax owner registers theirs, as I know I’d be devastated if I lost mine!

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I’ve had my Filofax for around 9 months now, and its hardly worn at all. There’s the few issues (rings and pen loop) that I have pointed out, and it also arrived with a dent on the front. But you can rarely get hold of these now, so I’m prepared to put up with it. I really do love it – the perfect way to look smart, but a little pretty, unique and slightly vintage-y, and stay organised.

And so that’s my Filofax. And one of the reasons why I should have been a student in the eighties. That and my hair would have fitted in a little bit better than it does now!

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If you liked this blog post, feel free to check out this, and this.

Student Organisation (with a few mini product reviews)

This post has been in my drafts for a long, long time. I kept meaning to come back and add how things have lasted over time, but just didn’t have the motivation. So now, when I should be revising for my exams next week, I’m doing it. Perfect procrastination!

I’m going to concentrate here on the organisation of the learning part of being a student – how I take lecture notes, work independently, stay on track of things and all little bits like that. What I’m not going to take about is the format of my notes, and how I revise. I think that’s something that is very individual to the subject being studied, and I’m not sure many of you will want to read all about how I learn maths – maybe that’s a post for another day!

 

Organisation is something very important to me – many will call me obsessively organised, and yes, if something is out of place, it will stress me out. One of my key priorities is to have subjects/tasks/stuff differentiated and separated into sections.

The way I do this within my university work is through (lots of) folders and (even more) dividers. For my first year, I have gone with a colour scheme of pink and green – this goes for my whole room (and I was very happy to arrive at university and find I’d been allocated a green room, completely by fluke). So I have pink folders, and green folders. All of these I actually saved after condensing my notes down at the end of sixth form, but if any of you are interested they are all from WHSmiths. Cheap(ish) and readily available. They get based quite easily, but mine generally stay in my room so I’m not too worried about that.
Pink and green folders. Because of the way my course is split, I do Pure Maths modules, and Applied Maths modules (the interesting ones!). Because of this, I’ve split my folders up – pink for the applied, green for the pure. Some of my folders are not ringbinders, but lever arch, and these bigger ones hold bigger modules, ie the 30 credit ones.

I then use dividers to split modules into topics. Usually this is quite easy, in that at the start lecturers told us what topics were coming up. Its not so easy when they just present you with a stream of knowledge, and I’m expected to organise it myself. Potential lecturers/teachers, take note of that!  Because I put a lot of things into plastic wallets, normal dividers don’t come out wide enough. You can buy extra-wide ones, but they are expensive. Instead I cut slots in plastic wallets, and put dividers in those. Works just as well.
So, that’s my main folders discussed.

I then have another ringbinder – a more expensive plastic one this time, again with my widened dividers in. I carry this around with me, with each division devoted to a module. I aim to keep at least one spare plastic wallet per module in there at all times, and some extra paper. This keeps my ‘current’ lecture notes organised, and allows me to slot new things in whenever.

I usually file the stuff in this folder away into the main folders either at the end of each topic, or when it is getting very full and heavy. I confess I usually leave it too late, so it tends to take much longer than it should!

I also keep in this folder two of an item that has become incredibly useful over this last year.  It’s going to be difficult for me to explain these, without sounding like a total idiot, so have a look here. I find them invaluable for throwing in things I will need quickly (I don’t need to take the folder out of my bag to retrieve things from these), and for keeping things in when I inevitably run out of plastic pockets. I actually bought mine from the university’s stationary shop, and paid considerably more than on Amazon, I know I’ll be ordering from there next time!

 

I then carry around the usual pens, pencils, rulers, rubbers, calculator etc. I actually use a make-up bag as I couldn’t find a pencil case I liked in September, however I do now I have a smaller case from Wilkinsons for days my bag is really heavy. Such is my obsessiveness about being organised, I also have an exam pencil case – an extra large clear plastic one, in which a spare calculator lives, and some never used before pencils. Sad I know!

A quick notes about the pens I use. I have been using Pilot Frixion erasable pens since the start of university, and I really do love them. They erase reasonably well (not perfectly, particularly on low quality paper), are quick drying (a huge necessity for a leftie!) and last a while considering a write a lot! A box of 12 pens lasts me just over a 12 week term, at £17 a box. So they are pricey, but for me they are worth it.

For paper, I buy refill packs from Rymans – they’re cheaper (with student discount) than WHSmiths, a better quality paper and they always seem to have narrow-ruled in stock. I have to use narrow ruled!

That is my absolutely essentials, for carrying around a normal day at university. Now if only I could find a bag that would comfortably fit those (and lunch and a textbook) in I’d be happy!

 

For keeping track of timings of lectures, deadlines, exams, and all other activities, I use a combination of things that work for me. Everyone is different, so don’t assume this works for you!

I obviously make use of my smartphone, a Samsung. In my case, my university timetable has synced to my calendar, with all information about lectures. I keep an alarm on set for an hour before the beginning of each to give me enough warning. I also put exams and deadlines on here. I try to keep my work schedule on here too, particularly as I work flexible and so difficult-to-remember hours.

I then have an A3 wall planner. I bought mine from Rymans, as it was the only A3 one I could fine – other sizes were just too big! I record on here term dates, exams and deadlines, visits to/from my boyfriend, and important financial dates such as payday and rent day. I cross of days with a big black marker – this helps me easily see when I need to do what, and how long it is before I get hugs!

The most important part of my organisation is, however, something any older readers may recognise from the eighties. Yes, I have a beloved Filofax. This was not bought on a student budget (although some models are more easily affordable) and was in fact a treat for my A-level results. I chose a Vintage Pink Personal Malden, which retailed at around £75. I paid £41 for it on Amazon, and got a bargain, especially as second hand versions of this model are currently selling still for it’s retail price. My Filofax contains everything about my life – important medical information, diary (which EVERYTHING goes into, including minor to-do’s such as exercises from lectures), shopping lists, timetables, careers notes, finance recording, cards (credit, store, etc) that I don’t use too often, spare money (I advise to always keep a spare £10 somewhere!), university passwords, shopping vouchers, year planner. Literally everything. It’s currently stuffed to the brim and in need of a sort out. I’m definitely glad I paid a little bit extra for a leather filofax, it lies flat (a problem I have heard about affecting some of the cheaper brands), is lovely and soft, smells wonderful, and will last a long, long time! I am also still in love with the colour. It’s a lovely, romantic, dusky pink – girly, but professional too. Definitely something that will last in terms of style.

(I’ve recently noticed that Filofax have been producing a new range, called the original, which is produced by the Leather Satchel Company, who I talked about in a previous post. I could get a bag matching a (new) Filofax! Ah, if money were no object…)

At some point in the near future I plan to publish (another half-written) article fully reviewing my Filofax, or at least a more in depth discussion of how I use it. Until then, look at Philofaxy for inspiration about how others use them!

I believe that I have discussed the main points about my organisation, for now at least. I aim to blog more (i.e. procrastinate more) over the next few months, particularly as those a year younger than me will be preparing to head to university and I want to help them as much as possible. Bye for now!

The Impossible-To-Find Necessity

You would think a bag is a pretty simple thing to find. I mean, virtually every shop will sell some kind of bags.

As a typical girl, I do love my bags, and freely admit to having quite a few. My lovely (and rather expensive) Hidesign Eton Leather Workbag  (available now from John Lewis, I bought it at a local saddler’s several years ago considerably cheaper than it is now advertised) was bought for sixth form. I do love this bag, I really do. Its stylish, simple, and most important good quality. But it isn’t quite big enough. Sure, it sits a folder in, but then not a lot else. For the moment it’s been relegated to my laptop bag. For this bag in the closest colours to the one I have, look here.

I also have an excellent-quality-for-the-price purple shopper. It was from Pepe Jeans around six years ago, has travelled to numerous countries, and acted as a school bag for many academic terms. It sadly took it’s last holiday last summer, where its zips gave up on a train somewhere between Zurich and Interlaken. I am looking into the replacement of the zips, but at a quoted cost of £40 to do so, I’m wondering whether it might be a good idea to indulge myself and look for a new bag.

(of course, I do have several “pretty” bags…my Zara bowler bag, lovely, unfortunately doesn’t fit A4…my fake LV, in lavender purple, which I went to great lengths to haggle to a good price in a shop off Side’s main high street…my over-sized Henry Holland clutch, bought purely (obviously) because I needed something to take to a wedding/prom and house my diabetic boyfriend’s insulin stuff…)

Anyway, I promise this post is student and university related!

For years, I have really struggled to find a stylish, elegant, decent-quality bag that will comfortably fit at least one A4 folder, along with pencil case, lunch, and maybe some textbooks. I really don’t think this is too much to ask.

The solution I am currently relying on is a felt-style black beaded bag, bought by my Nan many years ago and never used. It fits all my stuff in (just) but it has has a popper fastening, which doesn’t do anywhere near up when ‘full.’ So it’s not particularly secure, it’s hideously uncomfy on my shoulders, and yep, it’s falling apart after just seven months of use.

I’ve tried the satchel style bags from River Island back in my sixth form days. The strap broke, landing the bag in the middle of a very busy road, after two days.

I’ve tried rucksacks, cheap and pricey. One, I really don’t like the traditional hiking style ones (and the fashionable ones aren’t nearly big or strong enough) and, two, it’s just really impractical to use if you’re out shopping and want to grab your purse. Plus, I want something timeless and stylish.

At the moment, I’m currently searching for some kind of bag to use as my university bag for at least my second year, and hopefully beyond. It’s seeming impossible.

I found a close contender on a stall at Fosse Park. It was huge, compartmented, and made of strong PU leather. It was very lovely to look at, and I would have loved it. I opened it up and the flap hid a zip two-inches less wide than the bag. No A4 folder would fit. Damn.

I spent a whole day (even I don’t do whole-shopping-days!) looking for bags in Leicester last week. John Lewis, House of Fraser, Debenhams, TK MAXX, Primark, M&S, BHS. You name it, I looked there. The closest I found was this but it just didn’t seem strong enough.

So, at the moment, I’ve turned to the internet, and searching through word of house to find a bag big enough, strong enough, stylish enough, timeless enough, and just nice enough to justify the price tag….

I’ve looked at the Cambridge Satchel Company. I just adore the style of these, but I just can’t stand the feel. The leather is just too stiff, too inflexible, and they’re also getting a little too mainstream. I want something a little different, but still in the classic leather colours (preferably dark brown or tan).

I’ve looked at Zatchels, a slightly different alternative. Their executive style in brown would be perfect for me, but I just can’t justify the price tag. *sigh* £185, or £195 is just way out of my budget right now. If I can hang on until December, with my birthday and Christmas, then this would be a serious contender. Yet I can’t see my current bag lasting until next academic year, yet alone several months into it.

This weekend I saw an advert at my boyfriend’s university halls  from Chivote. I was really intrigued by this company, so I suggest you check them out!

Then, I found a company which has quickly become my favourite – The Leather Satchel Company here looks an excellent and slightly cheaper alternative, especially with the huge amount of customisation. And they are the original company offering satchels – which the Cambridge company is NOT despite what the majority of people believe.

I had thought, up until this weekend, that these companies were pretty much the ones I was going to be limited to. They are, after all, ones I’ve had recommended in terms of quality and customer service, and I’m pretty sure, almost, that they’d be big enough. But I’m not 100% sure enough to pay out that amount of money (and hey, my student loan doesn’t turn up til next week…).

To anyone who knows anything about bags; here is a list of what I want/need from a bag, so if you have any product or brand recommendations, please comment, or tweet me!

  • Leather, or leather style-plastic
  • Ideally a nice natural neutral colour – brown, tan or red
  • Big enough to fit A4 folder PLUS other items
  • Big enough for 15.6″ laptop (but not completely necessary as my current Hidesign does this well)
  • Ideally with compartments to separate stuff out
  • Outside pockets for easier access to essential items
  • Proper fastening – zip or buckle
  • Strong
  • Extremely long-lasting
  • Comfortable
  • Classically styled

I’m hoping that’s not to hard an ask…I guess the proof will be if I find a suitable bag in the next few months!